Sunday, October 19, 2008

Adventures In Creative Thinking

How many times have you caught yourself saying that there could be no other solution to a problem - and that problem leads to a dead end? How many times have you felt stumped knowing that the problem lying before you is one you cannot solve. No leads. No options. No solutions.

Did it feel like you had exhausted all possible options and yet are still before the mountain - large, unconquerable, and impregnable? When encountering such enormous problems, you may feel like you're hammering against a steel mountain. The pressure of having to solve such a problem may be overwhelming.

But rejoice! There might be some hope yet!

With some creative problem-solving techniques you may be able to look at your problem in a different light. And that light might just be at the end of the tunnel that leads to possible solutions.

First of all, in the light of creative problem-solving, you must be open-minded to the fact that there may be more than just one solution to the problem. And, you must be open to the fact that there may be solutions to problems you thought were unsolvable.

Now, with this optimistic mindset, we can try to be a little bit more creative in solving our problems.

Number one: maybe the reason we cannot solve our problems is that we have not really taken a hard look at what the problem is. Trying to understanding the problem and having a concrete understanding of its workings is integral in solving the problem. If you know how it works and what, exactly, the problem is, you will then have a better foundation to work on solving the problem.

Try to identify the participating entities within the problem and what their relationships are with one another. Take note of the things you stand to gain and stand to lose from the current problem. Once you do that, you will have a simple statement of what the problem is.

Number two: try to take note of all of the constraints and assumptions you have included in the scope of the problem. Sometimes it is these assumptions that obstruct our view of possible solutions. You have to identify which assumptions are valid, in which assumptions need to be addressed.

Number three: try to solve the problem in parts. Solve it going from a general view and move towards the more detailed parts of the problem. This is called the top-down approach. Write down the problem, and then break it down into manageable sections. Once you do that, come up with a one-sentence solution to each smaller portion. The solution should be a general statement of what will solve that particular portion of the problem. From here you can develop the solution further, and increase its complexity little by little.

Number four: although it helps to have critical thinking on-board as you solve a problem, you must also keep a creative, analytical voice at the back of your head. When someone comes up with a prospective solution, try to think how you could make that solution work. Try to be creative and remain open-minded tot he suggestions. At the same time, look for chinks in the armor of that solution.

Number five: it pays to remember that there may be more than just one solution being developed at one time. Try to keep track of all the solutions and their developments. There may be more than just one solution to the problem. If this is the case then you will need to eventually decide which solution is the best one.

Number six: remember the old adage "two heads are better than one." This is truer than it sounds. Always be open to new ideas. You can only benefit from listening to all the ideas each person has. This is especially true when the person you're talking to has had experience solving similar problems.

Organizing collective thought on the problem subject is much better than trying to figure it out on your own. Get yourself a "Mastermind Group" to assist you in resolving the problem satisfactorily.

Number seven: be patient. As long as you persevere and stay focused, there is always a chance that a solution will present itself. Remember that no one ever created an invention successfully the first time around.

Creative thinking exercises will also help you in your quest be a more creative problems solver. Here is one example:

Take a piece of paper and write any word that comes to mind at the center of the paper. Now look at that word, and then write the very next two words that come to your mind. This can go on until you can build a tree of related words. This helps you build logical thinking skills and fortifies your creative processes.

So, next time you see a problem you think you can't solve, don't panic. Panicking never solved anything and in most cases it will make the problem even worse! The solution might just be staring you right in the face. All it takes is just a little creative thinking, some planning, and a whole lot of perseverance.


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